SWTOR Impressions from the Media

The moderately publicized embargo placed on some well-known media sites, who were given a chance to try the very early gameplay of SWTOR, has been lifted.  These sites are all giving their thoughts on the game’s early levels based on an early version of the game.  Take that for what it’s worth.  I’m in the SWTOR Beta, but as a player I can not disclose any information.  I plan to give you guys my honest opinion, and by that I mean a glimpse at the reality of all things  SWTOR, but that will have to wait for a few more months.

Here’s what a few of the writers for these media sites had to say.

“If you’re the type who ooohs and aaahs over the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels (or your average Dungeons and Dragons paperback), you’ll probably have a similarly high opinion of TOR’s story. If that’s not your thing, you’ll probably roll your eyes a few times while searching for a way to skip the dialogue and pick up the inevitable kill 10 Separatists objectives. […] I’ll probably get some flak for saying so, but the bull-headed focus on story makes TOR a single-player game in many respects. Some people will love that, but I was left shaking my head at what might have been. […]” – Jef Reahard, Massively

“I was often faced with multifaceted choices that really got me thinking about what I’m doing and what the best course of action is. I often found myself both surprised and impressed with the writing of the content when it came to moral choices on the Trooper. It’s really telling when I go into a situation with my mind made up on what choice I’m going to make and only to be convinced by an NPC to reconsider the implications of my actions against my actual intentions.” – Michael Bitton, MMORPG.com

“So what’s the general impression? Well, it’s really solid. […] That said, a lot of The Old Republic feels very safe, sticking to things that have worked for other games in the past, and rarely attempting anything new or experimental.” – Nick Kolan, IGN

In each of the impressions I have found, it seems like the consensus is that the story will make or break the game.  Surprise, SWTOR is very much like a Bioware RPG.  If you don’t enjoy how the story creates an experience, and would rather go kill “10 separatists” then you’ll likely be bored with how contrived SWTOR is going to feel.  I’m not at all surprised by this being a common theme among the media.  It’s a safe way to “review” a game.  I’ll let you all know what I think later.

Feels like this niche media NDA lift was lack-luster.  The comments have all been middle of the road and even handed.  No one has taken any sort of stand or used this stage to talk about any specifics.  I don’t know if it’s because they’re trying to maintain relationships with Bioware or because each of these writers (or their respective sites) are just not as into the details of a game like I am.  Had I been given the opportunity, I would have latched onto 2-3 major details (good and bad) and dug my heels in.  That’s probably why no one ever offers me these opportunities. 😉

Despite personally knowing all these details already, I was hoping for some really meaty stuff.  I think it’s a shame that all we walk away knowing is SWTOR is set in the Star Wars universe and conversations will have good and bad choices.  Womp womp.

Update: Gamebreaker.tv has, in my opinion, the best coverage of the “Mini-NDA Lift”. You can watch it here.

  • “…That said, a lot of The Old Republic feels very safe, sticking to things that have worked for other games in the past, and rarely attempting anything new or experimental.” – Nick Kolan, IGN

    Statement that scares me the most.

  • Not surprised at all.

    Firstly, this is beta, so every media site will latch onto that excuse if forced to explain why they didn’t take a stronger stance (not that being negative is the only strong stance you can make).

    Secondly, none of these gaming sites want to piss off the gaming industry that feeds them content on a continious basis, which drives their ad revenues.

    Thirdly, I think most sites want to come off as “fair and balanced,” so they’ll always list of redeeming qualities for a crappy game or weak qualities in an impeccable one.

    Lastly, these writers are busy people and not making top-notch wages. This says nothing about their writing or researching abilities, but it does say something about the amount of time they’re going to invest. They are paid by the article, so while quality is important, quantity is more important.

  • One of my biggest concerns is that they have end game in place as it sounds like leveling will be a rapid process; I would hate to see this go the way of AoC with large groups of maxed out players forming gank squads for lack of any content.

    “We’re not entirely unrestricted — we can only talk about the early portions of the game from the Republic side” – IGN

    AoC was an amazing game based on the early portions…

  • @Snafzg: I’ve never been a fan of complacently feeding people the safe answers, regardless of the reason. All of these sites wrote small novels and did nothing but state the obvious.

    I can break every article down into a few simple bullet points: (1) There’s a good story some people may like and some think gets in the way, (2) Story and personal experience make the experience a more personal one, (3) Star Wars universe = Star Wars gameplay, (4) etc., Each should have a big “DUH” attached.

    Did you learn anything new? Really, I mean it, someone point out something new they learned or an opinion they felt enlightened their understanding or shed new light on or in any way helped shape an opinion of Swtor YOU DID NOT ALREADY HAVE. Don’t get me wrong, some of those impressions were opinions, but they were opinions about things the general public has already known about for 3+ months. My point being, this was a rather pointless exercise.

    Take the opportunity and run with it. One of those sites could have set themselves apart and they could have done it by stating good things as easily as the bad.

    @Gankatron: That’s a good point, too. It’s only the early game they’re talking about. Aion had a good early game. In my opinion, Bioware has already shown 90% of what these guys were allowed to talk about.

  • Agreed; it is funny how badly people on the SWTOR official forums are hurting for any scraps of information, and this will not appease them…

    Oh well, most people are going to play it anyhow as evidenced by the pre-sales, and it is less than 2 months away for early access launch. I guess it is a good time to find a distraction; WoW has a free 20 play deal, hmmmm….

    I do have a few questions, which I am not sure if the answers have officially been released:

    1) Are there any ramifications to playing an evil Jedi (or good Sith)? Does one have any negative effects or are the only things effected companion reactions and gear availability?

    I seem to have forgotten my second one, but I am sure it will come to me as soon as I hit “Submit Comment”.

    Ha, wait I just remembered!

    2) How early is the early access period? On the forums people are commonly speculating 2-4 weeks (based on nothing, but their hopes), but I would more likely think 2-3 days.

  • I think it just confirms most people’s vague suspicions of the game. Nothing we haven’t suspected already. As for “it’s a beta review” how often do we see major changes from a beta, at this stage of the beta, to release? Very little will change from here on out.

    I think most reviews, even when the NDA is lifted, are going to be like this. They will just tell us what we already suspected, just with specific examples.

  • “To the suprise of no one”, it should be the tag line under SWtOR. It’ll be a wet dream to 10 million casual MMO players and 2 months of distraction for anyone that can spell PvP. Wake me up when there’s news of SWtOR that isn’t 100% predicted.

  • My worst fear about this game, and as I read more and more about it I see this fear ever so materializing right in front of me, is that it’s going to be yet another wow clone with trademarked bioware “story telling” solo experience added on top of it. i am afraid would pretty much feel like playing Dragon Age in space and after that you will typical wow experience minus 5 years of polish, bells and whistles. I am sure that bioware will not what they do best – amazing voice acting, good story telling, some interesting moral choices. What I am afraid of is that this will be fun for about a month. What’s after that is the big question I have? Will this game be able to keep my attention for years to come, like wow had? I am very nervous that it will not, and I WAS hoping that this will be wow replacement for me.

  • @Farquaad: Anyone in their right mind has the same -valid- concerns. Anyone with any experience at all with the mmo industry can already see that coming. So, you’re not alone.

  • I have never purchased an MMO because some out of work, journalism major, sitting in his parents basement said the game was great. Nor did I ever not buy one because someone living in his parents garage said the game sucked. I always make up my own mind.

    None of these gaming sites dumping information today told me anything that I did not know already. Maybe they were told what they could comment on. Hell maybe Bioware even reviewed each article before they were published. Who knows. Very few new facts were revealed and as a result we received a bunch of worthless opinion. Opinion about a game that is in beta. Am I the only one that thinks that is dumb. If I was a critic, I would not bother reviewing a product under development. Plenty can happen between now and release which could make any critic to look like a fool. I would much rather read the opinions from fellow gamers, then going to any of the sites releasing information today.

    I was wanting to see a skill tree and play around with it a little. Maybe more information on all the companions each class will be using and their skills. Give me some substance and not just opinion.

    The information released today during this big dump was exactly that. I big brown, stinking dump.

  • Wow Thomas, way to stereotype people and like I said before; “As for “it’s a beta review” how often do we see major changes from a beta, at this stage of the beta, to release? Very little will change from here on out.”

    Yes I just quoted myself.

    Based off PAST MMO’s very little is going to change in the next 2 months. Any opinions we see now are more than likely very close to what we will see at launch… atleast for the content they are commenting on.

    You seriously came off really hostile in your entire post.

  • Nothing that informative was released by the major press sites, but I wouldn’t use the fact that it is in beta too dismissively. The game is presumably near release state; I presume this to be the case as there are less than 8 weeks left especially taking early access into account. I wouldn’t expect great modifications to take place at this point. Something needs to be put on discs, printed and packaged up, and shipped out to stores very shortly in the face of great demand.

    I think people will be disappointed to find that it is WoW in space with a strong RPG emphasis. Nonetheless it will still be fun. Perhaps if this is what comes out after years in development, backed by millions of dollars, from a good company like BioWare, maybe our expectations have become unreasonably high? On the other hand maybe with that kind of investment at stake companies are compelled to play it safe by modifying the financially solid WoW model?

  • To be honest, you’re right, but this was a VERY limited beta opportunity. Most of the sites that would probably “dig their heels in” so to speak, have not been given the opportunity to check it out other than an hour or so at events here and there.

    Any site worth their salt wouldn’t particularly care what BioWare or EA thinks of their thoughts and opinions, but it IS a beta still. We have almost exactly two months until release. A lot can still change, that’s probably why somewhat of a “safe” approach is being taken now.

  • Don’t forget that it’s very likely that the majority, if not the vast majority, of people reading these articles may know absolutely nothing about the game so far, nor have made the assumptions that we come to naturally on things such as Bioware = story driven etc. Those people still greatly benefit from knowing what those of us who have been following the game’s development take for granted.

    That being said it would’ve been nice to hear more that what was generally public knowledge, but hey, it’s been a few years, I can wait a few more weeks.

  • @Epiny

    Your right Epiny they will probably not have to many major content changes from now until release. Minor tweaks, adding UI stuff, various fluff etc…but nothing to major.

    Yes I was hostile but not without a reason. I look for information that is fact based and not opinion based. Give me all the facts about the subject and I’ll make up my own opinion.

  • it’s scary we are this close to launch and we still havent gotten any meaty details about the endgame. (from what i’ve been told its not even in general testing).

    the whole “beta weekend” thing seems to be another debacle. It sounded like initially they wanted it to run every, or atleast every other weekend but various snags and new builds that needed to be pushed out has put a snag in the machinery. bad PR.

  • I’m finishing my second month of playing, and, to say the least, I’m very surprised by the kind of articles this partial NDA lifting has generated.

    Anyone of you, not playing, could have written the same opinion pieces, just based on the information already available. Apparently the journalists were limited to republic side / level 16. And they could have give much more impressions (bad and good) on the game than what they wrote.

    And there is something on the game structure that is only visible after level 16 and may be a big surprise to everybody, as I haven’t read anything on it.

    Now I’d like to be paid to say that SW:TOR = WoW + ME. I’m sure nobody knew….

  • What exactly were people looking for here? They played the tutorial for a single faction and the systems themselves have been available for discussion for months.
    People reading this blog are worried about the level 50 endgame options, which no one can talk about.

  • @Asmiroth

    I’m not worried about level 50 endgame options. I’m worried it’s going to be kill ten whomp rats with voice acting.

  • I would also worry that there will be a trend for over-simplification of certain game mechanics in the short time prior to launch in order to limit complications.

  • The interesting thing is that BioWare put quite a large muzzle on what we were allowed to talk about. I even alluded to this in my piece. For example, nothing after getting your spaceship was allowed, nothing on character creation or space combat, no screenshots, etc.

    I understand the irritation by those who would like to read about other things, I’ve been there myself. Really, though, what else is there to talk about other than ruining specific story details/questlines for the people who are looking forward to such, or harping on holy trinity gameplay minutiae (which bores the shit out of me, hence I didn’t write about it).

    TOR isn’t a revolutionary game, and it should surprise no one who’s been paying attention when the early impression pieces reflect that.

  • “nothing on character creation or space combat”

    An important clarification as anyone who has had experience with the beta will attest.

    I think most people realize that BioWare has purposely limited the information that they want released, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which to avoid any negative feedback prior to launch.

    I agree that the game will likely not be perceived as revolutionary, but perhaps more evolutionary in the genesis of the MMORPG. Hopefully the various elements (single player, multiplayer, RPG, questing, space combat) will blend together rather seamlessly, otherwise immersion may suffer…

  • So basically now news there -WoW clone KOTOR background . I do not like SW and while fond of vanilla wow , wow clone is not something I would be interested in even trying today

  • 1. I loved KotOR
    2. I spent 2 years playing WoW
    3. Star Wars is awesome
    4. I want my own spaceship

    There’s a lot of hate directed at this game, which is puzzling considering at the start we knew the dev and we also knew $200 mil was not going to be spent on an experiment in gaming.

    ToR will be a fun escape from the trials of everyday life…certainly worth the box price. Is it a groundbreaking mmog we’ll all spend years in? Who cares.

  • I don’t know what you guys expected from these reviews. We’ve known for a long time exactly what we’re getting from SWtOR. You could have seen 2 full hours of gameplay a year ago, there’s more beta leak sites for SWtOR then beta testers. I think most of you want to continue to get new information in hopes that the info reveals a different game then the one you know you’re going to get. It’s 8 single player Bioware RPGs, the PvP is going to be like Warhammer, except worse, endgame mostly raids, sorry, operations. What information are you guys looking for inside the first 16 levels of PvE?

    PvE goodness, PvP stinks, I hope you like raiding. . .there’s your in depth, complete review, preview, critque of SWtOR, done.

  • @Max

    I understand Max. After investing so much time leveling characters in WOW it is hard to just leave a game for something else. I bet your all pumped to create a new Alliance, Kung Fu, Hamm’s Beer Panda.